Sunday, April 30, 2017

Two Reformation Ladies

Although it required a little walk to get to and three flights of stairs to climb, Mrs Clare Heath-Whyte's seminar on Women of the Reformation "Prioneering Partners in the Gospel... in the home: The Remarkable Lives of Katie Luther and Wibrandis Rosenblatt" was interesting and worthwhile. Mrs Heath-Whyte evidently knew her onions. A few more fellas would have benefited from it too no doubt.

It is worth trying to capture something of a flavour of the similarities and differences between contemporary Britain and Reformation Europe. In 1500, the average age of death was 33. The population density was something like that of rural Leicestershire today. On average women married at 24.

Women were often celibate nuns or irrelevant. The nunnery might be a practical financial expedient when there were too many mouths to feed and no money for dowries, rather than a spiritual vocation.

Katie Luther (1499-1551)

Note the unusual joint portrait by Lucas Cranach I

Their marriage often seen as a model

Luther said: "Men have broad chests and narrow hips; therefore they have wisdom. Women have narrow chests and broad hips. Women ought to be domestic; the creation reveals it, for they have broad backsides and hips, so that they should sit still." [Table Talk, WA TR 1, no 55, p19 see further Luther on Women: A Source Book ed. & trans. Susan C. Karant-Nunn, Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, CUP, 2003]

Yet a remarkably "equal" marriage for the time

Details of domestic life transcribed in the Table Talk

  • Problem Childhood

Her mother died and there was a wicked step-mother!

Sent to nunnery aged 5; vows at 15

The nuns influenced by Luther's writings contact him and he arranged their escape in herring barrels

  • Pragmatic Marriage

Luther 40; Katie 25. Not his first choice! Luther reluctant to marry as expecting to be martyred.

  • Personal Faith - one in Christ

Accepted Luther's challenge to read the Bible in a year

  • Pioneering Role Model - wife and mum

6 children. 1 died aged 2, another aged 13.

  • Practical Gifts - the value of work

Financial wisdom. Luther very impractical. Gave lots of stuff away. Changed his sheets once a year!

Luther depression ? and illness. Katie skilled in encouraging / motivating / helping and herbal medicine

Very hardworking

Purchase of farm. Brewing.

Students and Reform-minded refugees in the house. Extended family.

  • Powerful Personality!

Katie a somewhat difficult person - a match for Luther!

In his absence, Luther recommended that Katie be asked her advice on the appointment of pastors

He would call her Dr Katie

Somewhat abandoned after Luther's death

Wibrandis Rosenblatt (1504-1564)

In some ways a more ordinary life than Katie

Named after a local saints. Blessed her daughter with the same name.

born near Basel

Father knighted

  • Husbands
Married humanist, Ludwig Keller, who dies. Widowed at 20.

Marries Johannes Oecolampadius when he is 40 - 3 children, then dies

Marries Wolfgang Capito, who dies

Marries Martin Bucer, who dies

Bucer disliked Cambridge - "I was almost turned to stone and then my wife arrived to warm me up again"
  • Home
11 children in all
  • Hard work!

Bible study: Romans 12:1-8 - To what extent and how did these women model these things?

Clare is the author of:

First Wives Club: Twenty-first century lessons from the lives of sixteenth century women (10Publishing)

Old Wives Tales: Twenty-first century lessons from the lives of eighteenth century women (10Publishing)

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